Select Committee on European Union Fortieth Report


Letter from the Chairman to Meg Munn MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Women and Equality, Department of Trade and Industry

  Your Explanatory Memorandum dated 23 March was considered by Sub-Committee G on 4 May.

  These proposals are indeed important. We fully endorse the broad policy aims. But I am sure you will agree that the detailed plans are highly ambitious and we must ask whether you consider them to be realistic and achievable in the timescale set.

  Your EM says that the Government welcomes the approach proposed by the Commission in the Roadmap, although it does not say why you have apparently concluded that the Roadmap approach is preferable to the alternative sectoral policy approach which the Commission considered and rejected. We would be grateful if you could explain this.

  We agree with you that the emphasis on non-legislative action and exchanges of good practice is to be commended and are grateful for the assurance in your EM that the proposals accord with the principle of subsidiarity. But the effective co-ordination and monitoring of such a wide-reaching set of cross-cutting objectives is bound to pose a formidable challenge to the Commission and Member States. So will ensuring consistency of approach and keeping up the momentum.

  It is not clear to us from either the Commission documentation or your own EM how all this activity is to be managed. We are anxious to ensure that it does not lead to excessive bureaucracy, duplication of effort or unforeseen extra expenditure. Nor should it infringe on the competence of Member States or the principle of subsidiarity.

  That said, the main areas for action set out by the Commission seem at first sight to be generally acceptable. We welcome especially the emphasis on eradication of gender-based violence and human trafficking. The proposals on immigrant women and ethnic minorities within the EU are also important, but will need very sensitive handling. So will the proposals for action in Accession States and third countries, and we will want to be sure that the Commission has an adequate mandate for pursuing the latter.

  We note that EMs on the specific proposals for action planned on the gender pay gap, demography, comparable statistics on crime victims and criminal justice and the European Vision on Gender Equality in Development Co-operation will be submitted for Parliamentary scrutiny as they arise. We will want to examine these very carefully when they do, as we will the Commission's promised progress report in 2008 and their full evaluation in 2010. But your EM indicates that the implications of some of the other planned activities are not yet clear. We would be grateful if you could explain how those implications will be submitted for Parliamentary scrutiny.

  Your EM says that the Department has consulted informally with other relevant Government Departments, but does not mention any wider consultations. We would be glad to know what has been done, or is planned, about that.

  We notice that the Commission's proposals for improving governance for gender equality include the setting up of the European Gender Institute by 2007. As you know, this Committee has recently issued two Inquiry Reports recommending that gender equality work should be incorporated with the activities of the proposed European Fundamental Rights Agency, rather than by a separate institute, which would reflect the Government's own approach to equality work in this country.

  We would welcome your comments on all the above points and will retain the document under scrutiny in the meantime.

5 May 2006

Letter from Meg Munn MP to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 5 May responding to the Explanatory Memorandum on a Communication from the Commission on a Roadmap for Equality between Women and Men, 2006-10. I must apologise for taking so long to respond.

  The Impact Assessment sets out in some detail why the Commission has chosen a roadmap over a sectoral approach to progress on gender equality. An overarching, coherent and global structure should allow for a greater focus on priority areas, as well as emphasising the need for commitment to the advancement of gender equality in all policies. A unified roadmap should also give gender equality policy more visibility at European and international levels: the challenge will be to ensure action is taken at Member State level.

  It is to be hoped that this global approach will also make it easier to monitor progress effectively and improve co-ordination and management of activity. The section on monitoring progress in the Roadmap itself details measures for monitoring progress, including adapting existing tools such as the annual Work programme for the implementation of gender mainstreaming. Progress will be monitored and evaluated by existing gender equality indicators and new ones under development.

  The Roadmap also states that countries joining the EU must fully embrace the fundamental principle of gender equality. Monitoring the transposition, implementation and enforcement of EU gender equality legislation will be an EU priority for future enlargement processes. In addition the EU already plays a key role in international development efforts and is already promoting gender equality in its development policy, for example by including gender equality as a key element in its Strategy for Africa.

  With regards to your query on other planned activities, as soon as the specific proposals and implications for other planned activities are made clear I will inform you in writing, and where appropriate, issue an Explanatory Memorandum.

  The consultation that has taken place has been across Government Departments with the policy leads for the issues included within the Roadmap. We will of course continue to consult relevant colleagues and Departments as necessary when the Commission brings forward each specific proposal.

  Finally, I understand your concerns regarding the European Gender Institute and the Fundamental Rights Agency and I was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss this issue with your Committee in further detail on 13 July. I will of course, continue to update you on the progress in the next stages of this regulation.

9 August 2006

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